Beyond Case-Studies: History as Philosophy

Chapter
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 263)

Abstract

Dissatisfaction with hasty philosophical generalizations from a small number of conveniently chosen case-studies has contributed significantly to a widespread disillusionment with the whole enterprise of integrated history and philosophy of science. The history-philosophy relationship should be seen as one between the concrete and the abstract, not between the particular and the general. An abstract framework is necessary for telling any concrete stories at all. If historians do not find appropriate philosophical concepts with which to frame their episodes, then they ought to create fresh ones. Thus history-writing can serve an effective method of generating new philosophical insights. I illustrate these claims with two episodes from my own recent work. First, an inability to make sense of the original development of thermometry led me to craft a new philosophical framework of “epistemic iteration”, which involves accepting an unjustified starting-point for a process of self-correction and refinement. Second, a puzzle about the apparently insufficient reasons for the switch to Lavoisier’s new paradigm resulted in a move to a more commodious philosophical framework of analysis, in which theory-choice is understood as a pluralistic process of interaction between systems of scientific practice.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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